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Industries that laid off the most workers in December

Written by:
December 7, 2023
Photo Illustration by Stacker // Canva

Industries that laid off the most workers in December

The new year kicked off with a slew of layoff announcements from major employers across the country.

People have placed heightened focus on layoff news, rooted in fear of an uncertain economy. Despite the headlines, layoffs remain well below pre-pandemic levels. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates show that there were about 19.6 million layoffs throughout 2023, compared to 21.8 million in 2019. In December the layoff rate was 1%, a figure that remained relatively steady throughout the year, while the average layoff rate in 2019 was 1.2%.

Still, layoffs are rising. About 1.6 million people were laid off or fired in December 2023 nationwide, up about 5.6% from the previous month and about 9.6% from the same time the previous year. There were nearly 2 million more layoffs in 2023 than in 2022.

To see what workers have been most affected, Stacker used Bureau of Labor Statistics data to rank 19 major industries by the number of layoffs in December 2023. The analysis uses seasonally adjusted data. Numbers for the month are preliminary and may be updated.

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#19. Mining and logging

- December 2023 layoffs: 5,000
--- Change from prior month: -2,000
--- Change from December 2022: No change
- December 2023 layoff rate: 0.8% (Rank: #9)
--- Change from prior month: -0.3 percentage points
--- Change from December 2022: +0.1 percentage points

The mining and logging industry includes oil and gas workers as well as workers who cut timber and produce wood for residential construction. Worldwide, as economies shift toward clean energy, analysts expect that over 400,000 mining workers will be laid off by 2035—largely in China and India, but also in the U.S. and other countries. U.S. logging jobs are also projected to decline over the next decade as the industry adopts more advanced machinery and as demand decreases for logging, particularly as technology replaces various paper products.

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#18. Federal government

- December 2023 layoffs: 8,000
--- Change from prior month: No change
--- Change from December 2022: -2,000
- December 2023 layoff rate: 0.3% (Rank: #19)
--- Change from prior month: No change
--- Change from December 2022: No change

Congress created a short-term spending bill in mid-January to fund federal agencies into March, again averting a government shutdown and punting full-year financial decisions further down the road. Come March, millions of federal workers could be furloughed if legislators don't pass a budget in time. Spending cuts could lead to permanent layoffs, depending on how the permanent federal budget shakes out.

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#17. Educational services

- December 2023 layoffs: 22,000
--- Change from prior month: -1,000
--- Change from December 2022: -7,000
- December 2023 layoff rate: 0.5% (Rank: #16)
--- Change from prior month: -0.1 percentage points
--- Change from December 2022: -0.3 percentage points

The nation's educational services industry comprises private school teachers and college professors, employees of education technology companies, and nontraditional educators like online tutors. Colleges had been struggling with a decline in overall enrollment for a decade by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which further exacerbated the situation. Some in the industry fear institutions may downsize.

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#16. Real estate and rental and leasing

- December 2023 layoffs: 24,000
--- Change from prior month: +1,000
--- Change from December 2022: +6,000
- December 2023 layoff rate: 1.0% (Rank: #6)
--- Change from prior month: +0.1 percentage points
--- Change from December 2022: +0.2 percentage points

The real estate industry was among the first to feel the effects of rising interest rates. Thousands of real estate agents and brokers lost their jobs as rates began increasing and inventory remained squeezed. Though rates are coming back down, they still remain high—as do prices, thus limiting real estate activity.

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#15. Information

- December 2023 layoffs: 25,000
--- Change from prior month: -2,000
--- Change from December 2022: -21,000
- December 2023 layoff rate: 0.8% (Rank: #9)
--- Change from prior month: -0.1 percentage points
--- Change from December 2022: -0.7 percentage points

The information industry includes many tech companies, which slashed jobs throughout 2023 in a trend that is continuing into 2024. Executives have cited recession concerns, efficiency, and artificial intelligence as drivers for these layoffs. Google has more layoffs coming this year, as well as Microsoft, Discord, Twitch, and more. Many of these sit at the intersection of tech and media, which is another large segment of the information industry. Media companies have already announced vast layoffs in 2024, continuing last year's trend.

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#14. Finance and insurance

- December 2023 layoffs: 30,000
--- Change from prior month: -9,000
--- Change from December 2022: +11,000
- December 2023 layoff rate: 0.4% (Rank: #17)
--- Change from prior month: -0.2 percentage points
--- Change from December 2022: +0.1 percentage points

Finance and insurance companies enjoyed an employment boom in recent years, spurred by the onset of the pandemic. Americans cooped up in their apartments and houses leaped at the chance to secure larger homes for themselves at historically low interest rates. In today's higher interest rate environment, these firms may find themselves poorly equipped to keep all their workers on payroll. Industry giants resorted to sizable layoffs in 2023, with Citigroup following suit this year.

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#13. Nondurable goods manufacturing

- December 2023 layoffs: 37,000
--- Change from prior month: -17,000
--- Change from December 2022: -7,000
- December 2023 layoff rate: 0.8% (Rank: #9)
--- Change from prior month: -0.3 percentage points
--- Change from December 2022: -0.1 percentage points

The phrase "nondurable goods" is a fancy way of describing any item consumers can purchase that will go bad if left on a shelf for too long, or will only provide the consumer with a single use before it's gone. These items include food and cleaning products or even cigarettes. Americans working in nondurable goods manufacturing might work for a food processor like Frito-Lay. Nondurable goods manufacturing was one of few industries without a worker shortage as of September, as the industry hasn't recovered all the employment opportunities it lost amid COVID-19. This may make employers feel better positioned to lay off or fire people.

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#12. State and local government education

- December 2023 layoffs: 39,000
--- Change from prior month: -1,000
--- Change from December 2022: +2,000
- December 2023 layoff rate: 0.4% (Rank: #17)
--- Change from prior month: No change
--- Change from December 2022: No change

Public school teachers are in the state and local government education sector. This field has struggled to attract and retain teachers over the last decade as public school funding has dried up. Record inflation has made teaching wages close to unlivable in some places as conservative elected officials have slashed public education funding. Public schools may be forced to cut teachers if costs rise to unmanageable levels.

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#11. Wholesale trade

- December 2023 layoffs: 41,000
--- Change from prior month: -23,000
--- Change from December 2022: -18,000
- December 2023 layoff rate: 0.7% (Rank: #12)
--- Change from prior month: -0.4 percentage points
--- Change from December 2022: -0.3 percentage points

Wholesale trade companies are intermediaries that don't necessarily advertise their business to consumers. They operate in the background, buying inventory from manufacturers and reselling it to retailers. An American working in wholesale may be employed by Costco or a medical wholesaler like McKesson. Wholesale trade is another industry not currently facing a worker shortage, so its employers may also have more confidence to make layoffs.

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#10. State and local government, excluding education

- December 2023 layoffs: 54,000
--- Change from prior month: +18,000
--- Change from December 2022: +4,000
- December 2023 layoff rate: 0.6% (Rank: #14)
--- Change from prior month: +0.2 percentage points
--- Change from December 2022: +0.1 percentage points

State and local government jobs have barely recovered from COVID-19 drops. Record federal rescue funds kept Americans spending amid the COVID-19 recession, putting ample money back into some state tax coffers. But those funds have dried up, and many governments are looking at significant budget shortfalls again, which likely means cutting employees.

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#9. Durable goods manufacturing

- December 2023 layoffs: 55,000
--- Change from prior month: +7,000
--- Change from December 2022: +1,000
- December 2023 layoff rate: 0.7% (Rank: #12)
--- Change from prior month: +0.1 percentage points
--- Change from December 2022: No change

Durable goods include any item purchased that gets reused over time and does not expire. These can be plastic storage bins, children's toys, and even technology like smartphones. Manufacturing of durable goods saw a boom in the first two years of the pandemic as consumers spent their incomes on things they could safely enjoy from their homes. Some of those manufacturers have had to scale back head counts as consumer demand has dropped off in the goods-producing sector and moved into services—and as inflation has limited consumers' spending power.

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#8. Other services

- December 2023 layoffs: 61,000
--- Change from prior month: -1,000
--- Change from December 2022: +20,000
- December 2023 layoff rate: 1.0% (Rank: #6)
--- Change from prior month: No change
--- Change from December 2022: +0.3 percentage points

The so-called "other services" category of American industry covers service-oriented work that doesn't fit neatly into any other category. It includes jobs like equipment repair, religious work, and end-of-life care, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The category is an eclectic mix, so it's hard to pin down what trends beyond the overarching economy impact fluctuations in layoffs in this category.

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#7. Arts, entertainment, and recreation

- December 2023 layoffs: 69,000
--- Change from prior month: +6,000
--- Change from December 2022: +17,000
- December 2023 layoff rate: 2.7% (Rank: #1)
--- Change from prior month: +0.2 percentage points
--- Change from December 2022: +0.5 percentage points

The arts and entertainment sector faced new challenges in 2023. TV and movie writers were on strike for nearly five months over pay and other issues, and actors walked out, too. While new contracts have resolved both strikes, Hollywood remains tumultuous as the streaming economy challenges the entertainment sector. Pixar, Amazon Prime Video, and Universal Music Group have been among entertainment companies to cut jobs already in 2024.

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#6. Health care and social assistance

- December 2023 layoffs: 132,000
--- Change from prior month: -15,000
--- Change from December 2022: +12,000
- December 2023 layoff rate: 0.6% (Rank: #14)
--- Change from prior month: -0.1 percentage points
--- Change from December 2022: No change

The U.S. health care industry is at a crisis point without enough nurses or doctors to care for an aging population, and many of those health professionals burned out providing care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, institutions such as hospitals are struggling with finances, moving them to cut services that don't produce profits—and the employees that go with them.

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Monkey Business Images // Shutterstock

#5. Retail trade

- December 2023 layoffs: 145,000
--- Change from prior month: No change
--- Change from December 2022: +7,000
- December 2023 layoff rate: 0.9% (Rank: #8)
--- Change from prior month: No change
--- Change from December 2022: No change

Retail trade is one of the largest employers in the country, including retail floor workers as well as those employed within the many corporate branches at retail giants like Target and Kroger. Inflation has tightened wallets, limiting individuals' spending and leaving retail establishments to feel the initial impacts. In 2023, retail giants like Walmart and Nordstrom announced cuts to their workforces—largely among corporate employees. Those layoffs are continuing in 2024 at companies like eBay, REI, Macy's, and Wayfair.

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#4. Transportation, warehousing, and utilities

- December 2023 layoffs: 149,000
--- Change from prior month: +43,000
--- Change from December 2022: +42,000
- December 2023 layoff rate: 2.1% (Rank: #2)
--- Change from prior month: +0.6 percentage points
--- Change from December 2022: +0.6 percentage points

The transportation, warehousing, and utilities industry encompasses the massive supply chain in the U.S., which experienced unending hiccups and shocks throughout the last several years. The pandemic pushed the supply chain to ramp up, and more recently, it's over capacity with lower demand levels. Now, trucking, flight, and other companies built around moving freight are going bankrupt or shuttering operations, and their employees are finding themselves out of a job. UPS is the latest major player to announce a massive sweep of layoffs in the new year.

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#3. Accommodation and food services

- December 2023 layoffs: 158,000
--- Change from prior month: +16,000
--- Change from December 2022: +17,000
- December 2023 layoff rate: 1.1% (Rank: #5)
--- Change from prior month: +0.1 percentage points
--- Change from December 2022: +0.1 percentage points

The accommodation and food services industry comprises hotels, restaurants, and fast-food chains that employ tens of millions of Americans. These leisure services have largely recovered from COVID-era struggles, though record inflation has tempered some of that recovery. Higher costs of essential expenses mean there is less left over for Americans to treat themselves by dining out or taking a trip.

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#2. Construction

- December 2023 layoffs: 169,000
--- Change from prior month: -3,000
--- Change from December 2022: +3,000
- December 2023 layoff rate: 2.1% (Rank: #2)
--- Change from prior month: No change
--- Change from December 2022: No change

The high interest rates the Fed implemented to stunt inflation have slowed the greater real estate market and, in turn, construction. Residential and commercial construction bear the brunt of the slowdown, as fewer individuals are in a place to buy homes, and not as many companies can afford to revamp or expand offices and storefronts. This is in stark contrast to 2021, when record-low interest rates created a surge in demand for real estate.

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#1. Professional and business services

- December 2023 layoffs: 393,000
--- Change from prior month: +69,000
--- Change from December 2022: +55,000
- December 2023 layoff rate: 1.7% (Rank: #4)
--- Change from prior month: +0.3 percentage points
--- Change from December 2022: +0.2 percentage points

The professional and business services industry comprises attorneys, marketing, accountants, and other professionals who support businesses in mostly white-collar positions. Many of these positions have been safe over the past three years as demand from consumers remained hot and companies seemingly couldn't find enough workers to fill jobs. But interest-rate hikes, bank failures, and challenges among other industries serviced by these professionals spell trouble. Tech companies' current struggles, for example, trickle down to business services as firms cut costs.

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